Monday, May 18, 2009

Saturday Is Bond Day #10: The Spy Who Loved Me

For me, The Spy Who Loved Me was always "the one with the underwater car." But my sons were looking forward to it since they knew Jaws was in it. (Though they didn't get the visual pun at the end, when the Richard Kiel villain Jaws was dropped into a tank with a great white shark. Ah, youth!) In the end, we all liked it -- even The Wife, who joined us for a special Friday evening installment of "Saturday Is Bond Day." (I'm hoping to make the change permanent; there's so much else to do on a Saturday afternoon, and I want to see more movies as a whole family.)

Spy Who Loved Me is a big flashy Roger Moore James Bond movie, complete with a villain with plans to destroy the world -- Curt Jurgens as fish-lover Karl Stromberg -- and a tough Bond Girl who's plenty capable in her own right in Barbara Bach as Russian agent XXX, aka Anya. (The next movie, Moonraker, tries to push all of the same buttons, but is more ham-fisted in doing so.) Bond chases Stromberg around the world, trying to figure out his plot and avoid being killed by him (or his hired killer, Jaws) and bumping into Anya repeatedly along the way. The Maguffin this time is very similar to several earlier installments: Stromberg has captured two nuclear submarines in a way amazingly similar to the methods used by SPECTRE to grab spaceships in You Only Life Twice. But Bond movies have never been afraid to re-use a good gimmick.

I still like The Man With the Golden Gun better as a movie -- it's got Christopher Lee, and Herve Villechaize, and one of the least typical villain's lairs -- but I'll concede that The Spy Who Loved Me is the quintessential Moore Bond film; it encapsulates all of the things the series did well in his era, and shows all of the flaws of the Moore years as well. (For the former: style, energy, set-piece action scenes and the honest feeling of being larger than life. For the latter: cartooniness, plots that turn into a mere sucession of locations thinly tied together, and an emphasis on style over substance. Oh, and a large dose of '70s sexism.) If you only watch one Moore Bond movie, it should probably be this one.

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